You Don't Become Less By Dying: The Evidence

11/15/2016 04:06 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2017

I've given radio shows about my afterlife research from Sydney to Toronto, and from London to LA. Here are some of the more interesting questions that interviewers ask me:

1. You've published four books on the afterlife since 2011 What drove you to do this?

For many years I've been teaching a course at Cal State Bakersfield titled The Meaning of Death. One of the keys to its success is the discussions we have on what happens at death and what might happen after. Most students are turned off by the idea of becoming nothing at death, and I show them the various types of evidence suggesting this won't happen. I share my students' discomfort at the thought of personal extinction. For the most part I enjoy life, and any evidence that suggests it goes on is very welcome news. My new book explores this evidence.

2. What conclusions have you drawn? And what are they based on?

The evidence that my colleagues and I study and analyze is not based on religious doctrine, but on scientific and philosophical analysis of the evidence, which is almost entirely secular in nature. This evidence falls under nine headings: deathbed visions, the near-death experience, apparitions or ghosts, poltergeist phenomena, spirit communication through mediums, spirit attachment, reincarnational memories by very young children, spirit communication using electronic instruments, and unaccountable clarity by advanced Alzheimer's victims just before death. Most afterlife researchers who are aware of this information are strong believers in survival of death. They rightly see that the brain is not the originator of consciousness, but the organ that implements it. My latest book shows why we think this way.

3. How do your conclusions square with religious doctrine? Do religious people find your work helpful? Or do they feel threatened?

Reactions vary. First, the answers reaching us from these nonreligious sources frighten away many religious people who restrict themselves to their Bible or Quran or Vedas. Second, many religious people are open to more light, and are pleased to see that the evidence affirms the truth of survival even if the details of what to expect at death are different from what they've been taught. Third, many other religious people discover in these books a world following death that makes far more sense than anything they've come across in their churches or synagogues. Their worldviews change accordingly.

4. How do scientists react to your research? Are they skeptical, open, dismissive?

Again, reactions vary. Many people who think of themselves as scientific refuse to look at the research. They cannot imagine a world apart from the one they know, and they don't give themselves a chance to meet the evidence that might change their minds. Needless to say, this is a very unscientific attitude. Many others, especially in the medical professions, are more open.

5. We have problems enough in this world. Are your interests too otherworldly to be of much use?

No. Sharing the evidence and analyzing it properly unleashes what William James called "the strenuous mood." It encourages a zest for life. It helps form the conviction that what we do here really matters and has consequences that reach beyond this life. It helps generate every kind of virtue.

6. What about your research has surprised you the most?

It's full of surprises, but perhaps most surprising is the finding that afterlife is not the exclusive domain of religion. The great adventure that death opens up to us is not dependent on belief, but on character. Deeply religious people often have an advantage, not because of their beliefs, but because they have often thought more carefully about death and devoted time to becoming loving and forgiving persons. But nonbelievers are not necessarily disadvantaged. Character is fundamental, and good atheists or agnostics will begin the journey at the level that their character--their habits of a lifetime--have readied them for. The same goes for people of varying faiths.

7. Is your work appreciated by your colleagues where you work? How about your students?

By the students, yes. By the faculty, on the whole no, at least not publicly. Very few faculty have ever heard of the kind of research I do, and they have no time to give it a look. They are consumed, after all, by their own research projects, so this is not surprising. On a campus like CSUB, a secular university, the unfortunate assumption that any talk of an afterlife must be based on religion reigns. This is the great bane of researchers like me. How do we break through this prejudice? We are convinced that the evidence for survival rests on solid ground--as solid as the physicist's evidence for dark energy and matter.

8. Any final word?

There is no need for the good man or woman to fear death. To regret it, yes. For there is so much that is yet to be done. But fear it? No. The great adventure of life will continue.